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Leaside’s grilled cheese guru sweeps away cares

Stephen and Aniko in front of Millwood melt. Photo by Janis Fertuck.

Stephen and Aniko in front of Millwood melt. Photo by Janis Fertuck.

Most mornings Stephen D’Amico can be spotted sweeping in front of Millwood Melt, the grilled cheese restaurant he runs with his wife Aniko at 902 Millwood Rd. This is more than an act of tidiness, however; it is a meditative act which he picked up while working with some Mennonites on a farm near Waterloo. When he asked how they deal with stress, they said that Mennonites “take care of that with sweeping.” Stephen was so taken with this concept that now he sweeps his external surroundings while doing the same with his “inner house,” as he calls it.

This is an apt metaphor for the two different aspects of Stephen’s life: his work in the restaurant and his real vocation of being a spiritual teacher.

Millwood Melt is a popular lunch spot known for its delicious comfort food. After spending several years in education and publishing, Aniko and Stephen opened it in 2012 as a place where, according to their website, people can “hang out, enjoy good, honest food and always feel welcome.” But it also provides the time and space for Stephen to pursue his work as a spiritual guide and writer.

Stephen explains that he felt a spiritual force within him even as a child, but experienced a full awakening at age 22 when he underwent “a profound spiritual transformation.” He spent the next 11 years “integrating this realization of enlightenment and deepening his understanding of it” while involving himself in activities such as community mediation, a peace initiative in Colombia, and teaching.

Along the way, Stephen started writing his first book, Heaven on Earth, and holding gatherings at his brother’s mattress store and at the Multi-Faith Centre at the University of Toronto. While he is not aligned with any particular religion, he explains that his work “celebrates the core truths and teachings common to all the world’s religions, with the attainment of enlightenment forming a central feature.”

Stephen holds monthly transformational gatherings at the restaurant with 15 people of all ages and from across the city taking part in guided meditation followed by a dialogue, during which Stephen offers teachings and guidance in his role as an enlightened leader who transmits what is known as “awakening energy.”

Stephen also offers enlightened guidance sessions in person or via Skype to help participants “awaken and integrate their true nature.”

In addition, on Sunday mornings, he broadcasts an online show on Facebook Live called “Walk with Me,” during which he goes for a walk in nearby Crothers Woods and shares his insights. Viewers are able to ask questions and receive his answers in real time.

Aniko explains her husband’s popularity in admiration of the way he can relate to so many people and help them using “his spirituality in action, his integrity and sound advice.” For his part, Stephen concludes that he is happiest when he is teaching and guiding, and that while his work has its challenges, it is his “greatest joy in life.”

Not bad for this couple, who provide comfort food for both body and soul at Millwood Melt.